A/N: I think we can pretty much assume the chapters with Isabell's POV are all going to be long...

Enjoy the chapter!


Chapter 48: Morgan

Sleep would not come.

Isabell was used to this by now, she rarely got more than three consecutive hours of sleep at a time before her dreams led back to memories that haunted her and prevented her from sleeping well at night.

As if it wasn't enough that the memories woke her up in the first place, of course they would keep her awake.

Isabell hated nights. During the day she could distract herself from her own thoughts by talking to people, by training, and by other means, but during the night she was alone in the dark and quiet, with nothing but the memories she wanted to banish from her mind for company.

One memory would trigger the next, and it would only continue from there. It was only during the occasions where a fond memory of Hod, her family and friends, or something similar where she would finally fall asleep, hoping for a dreamless night.

Of course she was never lucky enough to have that dreamless sleep. If she wasn't so used to it by now, she would have trouble functioning in the mornings, like she did when the recurring nightmares really got out of hand, three years previous.

Sometimes she wished she had never met him, and never let him through her shell. But at the same time, she knew she would be worse off if he had never entered her life.

For the few short years she'd known him, just his presence somehow managed to heal and soothe her. After she had allowed him past her shell and opened up to him about the Hod war, she had experienced no more nightmares about it, or watching her home and the people who happened to be in it at the time to the raging fire caused by the invading soldiers' attack.

She'd almost died there, too. One of the male servants of House Gardios she'd been somewhat close to happened to find her and get her out of the building before it was too late, as inhaling immense amounts of smoke left her too weak to do anything herself, barely even conscience anymore.

Ever since that time, she was thrown back to that experience whenever she saw fire. She was fine with candles and small fires, and and grown to be comfortable around campfires over the years, but seeing them in battle in particular reawakened the memory, though thankfully she was now better than she had been.

As for the boy who saved her, he took her to Chesedonia with him, only to die of scorpion poison coupled with dehydration, leaving Isabell completely alone with no means to take care of herself, and with no idea of what happened to her family.

The boy's death was one of the smaller things that would sometimes come up in her mind, she'd had so much happen to her since then that she couldn't even remember his name anymore, but there was no doubt she was still grateful to him for saving her life. She tried to remember his name, but everytime it was on the tip of her tongue it would escape her again.

Isabell sighed deeply and turned over in her bed. If there was something, maybe some kind of medication, that would allow her to just forget these things, she would take it in a second. She felt obligated to remember these people, their deaths and their impact on her life, but it was too much for her sanity to take anymore.

She was slowly losing it.

Maybe Jade knew about such a medication? He must have dealt with the deaths of plenty of people around him too, with his position. She allowed herself a dark laugh. Any soldier would simply point her in the direction of a bar or tavern, she knew that.

She'd once tried to drink her troubles away, but that only led to her waking up in the bed of a stranger the next morning, and she never allowed herself to get in that position again. She preferred the lack of sleep and constant nightmares over the deep pit of shame in her stomach she felt on that morning.

Briefly she wondered if Alex was still awake in her room down the hall, but it had to be at least three in the morning. Everyone knew how much Alex hated to be woken up for any reason.

She didn't really know Guy well enough to wake up at this time, either. And though she had a feeling he would be kind enough to listen to her talk without complaint, it would be awkward for both of them.

Slowly, she managed to drift back into sleep.

"Any part of you that touches me, you aren't getting back."

The blonde male Isabell's cold remark was directed at merely laughed in response and moved closer to her. He raised an arm and positioned it above her head, leaning his body against the door Isabell had to get through.

She was thoroughly unamused by the man's antics, he was preventing her from getting to a training session. She had never once been late for one of the training sessions, and she didn't intend to be tardy now.

"I don't have time for this," she snarled, glaring at the man. She noted that he looked slightly scared by her expression for a split second before going back to his annoying smirk. Who the hell was this guy, anyway? And why did he suddenly have interest in Isabell?

She'd been training in the Oracle Knight's academy for well over four months now, and she been doing quite well. She was also training directly under Cantabile at night, and the extra training, that was often very harsh with Cantabile, proved to help Isabell become one of the best in her group.

She'd done nothing but live and breathe the Oracle Knights.

With Van's good words as well as Cantabile's recommendation, she was already close to becoming an Oracle Knight in Cantabile's division, albeit a lesser one.

Still, it was something to be proud of, and apparently some others in her group had heard of her fast promotion, gaining her a lot of unwanted interest.

"Aw, come on, Sweetheart," the man said, "I just want to have some fun. The guys and I were talking earlier about your upcoming promotion, and we were thinking about how you got it so quickly," he reached out and lifted her chin and lowered his voice to a whisper, "So tell me, who did you sleep with to get that promotion, huh? And what do I have to do to get some of that action?"

Isabell immediately slapped his hand away from her, still glaring daggers at him. She desperately wished she could just draw her sword on him and give him a piece of her mind, but knew it would only ruin everything she had worked for. Granted she had only worked four months for it, but sleeping in the small room she got in the cathedral was so much better than sleeping in the sand. Van had risked his reputation for her sake too, and she couldn't get him in trouble over something like this.

Her silence at the blonde's disgusting words seemed to come as a good thing for him. The fool seemed to have thought he had won, but just because Isabell couldn't really kill him, didn't mean she couldn't protect herself from the pervert.

He smiled at her, and she prepared to give him a reason to leave her alone without the use of her sword when someone interrupted her.

"Leave her alone, Brutis. She didn't ask for any of this attention."

Brutis glared at the person behind her, probably thinking he had interrupted something good. Isabell thought he should be glad the man interrupted things before turning to look at the newcomer. She was considering playing along and going with him to his home...castration sounded like a pretty good idea, and she highly doubted Auldrant needed this man breeding anyway.

"What's your problem, Specs?" Brutis asked as he approached the smaller man. The new man wasn't exactly small, either, it was only that Brutis was very big and muscular, clearly all brawn and no brains.

The newcomer didn't seem at all intimidated by Brutis, and looked up at him with unimpressed, bright blue eyes hidden behind pointed glasses. Brutis probably thought he was being clever with his pathetic 'Specs' nickname.

"My name is Morgan. You know how much I hate that nickname," he replied matter-of-factly, swiping his messy black hair to the side.

"Well, fine then, Morgan. Why should I leave the girl alone? She could have left anytime she wanted to, and she chose to stay."

Isabell couldn't help but scoff at him, causing both men to look at her.

"I thought it was pretty obvious she would rather be anywhere but with you," Morgan told him, "Are you really so dense that you didn't notice you were blocking the door? She couldn't leave because you were in her way."

As Morgan said the words, he locked eyes with Isabell and nodded toward the now empty doorway. Isabell finally realized that Brutis had left to get to Morgan, and quickly hurried though without a second thought, before Brutis could notice. There were only a few more minutes to get to that training session, and she was usually there at least a half an hour early. She'd wasted enough time with the other maggots, though Morgan seemed good enough to not be considered one of the others.

Clearly Cantabile hadn't quite gotten through to her about how all humans were maggots.

Before she had gotten too far, she heard the sound of footsteps running in her direction from behind her. Anticipating that Brutis had figured out she left and Morgan hadn't been able to hold him there, she heaved a deep sigh.

At least she was on her way to the training session now, and there were no doorways for him to block anymore.

"Sorry about back there," came the voice of Morgan, falling in step with Isabell as she continued to walk. She couldn't help but wonder what happened to Brutis. "He's usually not that bad. He's just an idiot who's used to getting what he wants."

But why on Auldrant he would want someone as unpleasant as Isabell, she had to wonder. Her hair was short and unappealing for a woman, and the permanent scowl on her face effectively ruined any sense of beauty she had left.

"I didn't need your help back there," she said simply.

"Oh, I know," he shrugged, "I've seen you in training, I know what you can be capable of. I just figured it would probably be good to step in before you killed him or something. Think of it as me doing Brutis a favor if you'd prefer it that way."

Isabell couldn't help but smirk slightly at the comment and Morgan continued speaking.

"I already know who you are, everyone's been talking about you and how you're close to Van Grants and General Cantabile. But I should probably introduce myself properly, huh? I'm Morgan Reily-"

"Don't you have anywhere you should be?" Isabell asked, cutting across him. He looked slightly hurt for a moment, then nodded.

"Yeah. It just so happens we're headed to the same place. I'm in your training division."

She allowed a brief moment for her to slightly widen her eyes in shock, she had no idea who this person was. She looked him up and down and didn't recognize him at all, yet he said he was in her training division.

Then again, it wasn't as if she actually paid any attention to the others in her division, she didn't even care about any of them. They all probably die in action anyway, and Cantabile told her from the start not to get close to any of them. It was was ridiculous and unnecessary too close to them, as any emotions that came with a comrade's death could easily lead to her own.

"The maggots here in Daath would never be worth such a fate," Cantabile had told her, "No one would ever be worth it."

"So you don't recognize me, huh?" he asked with a weak smile, "I guess that makes sense. My artes are pretty mediocre, I doubt I would be noticed by someone as talented as you."

"Sorry," Isabell said, though she wasn't sorry at all, "I'm too busy focusing on my own training to notice anyone else."

"Well it has paid off," he told her, "But even though it's gotten you a promotion into the Oracle Knights' ranks so quickly, don't you think you should learn how to work with others as a team?"

"What good would that do?" Isabell asked bluntly, "They would only hold me down."

"Well, that's..." he apparently couldn't think of anything else to say, and remained silent for the rest of the walk to the training grounds.

After the events of that day, Isabell went back into her usual routine, consisting mostly of sleeping, showering, eating, and training. No time left to socialize with others, though that was obviously by design.

Despite this, Isabell quickly caught on to Morgan following her around Daath over the next few days, she was catching him around her more frequently as the days progressed. There were times when he would approach her and try to have a conversation with her, but those times always ended in her giving him the cold shoulder.

She was honestly quite shocked that he even kept trying after some of the things she said to him.

She decided the next day, when she saw him in the training grounds, that she would ask him why he insisted on trying to talk to her when she had made it clear she wanted nothing to do with him. She was earning some snide remarks from Cantabile when the two of them trained when the woman noticed Isabell together with Morgan throughout the day, and that wouldn't do.

Isabell wanted Cantabile's approval, and for her to praise her for something - for anything - and that would be near impossible with Morgan constantly around her.

She ignored the whispers of the others in her group as she marched toward Morgan at the end of their training session.

He looked surprised when he saw her approaching him, but he looked happy all the same.

"Stop following me around," she told him with a glare.

Morgan only smiled in response, and somehow just the small act managed to make Isabell's heart flutter, which in turn infuriated her. She couldn't go and start liking a boy now, not when she was steadily growing stronger and closer to accomplishing her goals.

"What are you smiling about?" she demanded, irritated when his grin grew wider.

"I knew my plan would work," he answered simply.

Isabell sighed in irritation when he didn't elaborate, "What plan?"

"My plan to get you to talk to me." Isabell was too shocked and confused to speak, so Morgan continued, "I figured if I kept trying to talk to you all the time, then eventually you would want to start a conversation with me."

"I'm not speaking to you because I want to!" she hissed, though she couldn't help but blush slightly out of embarrassment. Why would he be so hellbent on getting her to talk to him? "I'm telling you to stop following me! What possible reason could you have for wanting me to talk to you, anyway? Are you trying to win some sort of childish bet?"

"No, of course not! I just..." Morgan shrugged, "I don't know. You always look so lonely."

"Just because I'm alone, it does not mean I'm lonely."

"Sure, I guess, but every day it's the same. You don't talk to anyone, and you never smile. I've been watching you in training for months now, and I have never once seen you smile."

"Soldiers aren't meant to have emotions. You won't get very far in the Oracle Knights if you have such a weak heart that you care this much about whether or not a girl you don't know smiles. How do you expect to kill a person if the situation arises?"

Morgan was quiet for a moment, "You don't want to kill people?"

"Don't be stupid! I'm only saying that as a soldier the time will come where you have to choose between taking a person's life, or losing your own. What decision do you intend to make when that time comes?"

Morgan looked down at his feet for a few moments before avoiding the question altogether. "Maybe soldiers would be better off without emotions, but while they're on duty. It doesn't mean they shouldn't be allowed to laugh or have a good time with friends after they're finished work for the day. They should still be entitled to being human! Don't you want to have a friend, or someone you can relate to."

Isabell laughed, in a cold, heartless way, "I doubt there's anyone in this room that I can relate to. I prefer my quiet life as it is now, it's infinitely better than how I lived months ago."

"You can't be that cold at such a young age without reason," Morgan said quietly, looking a little concerned for her now after the small mention of her past, and she hated him for it, "Something must have happened to you-"

"I don't want to talk about my past with a stranger," Isabell snapped, narrowing her eyes.

"But that's the thing! We're all strangers to you! It can't be healthy to spend so much time alone. If you keep all the bad memories bottled up long enough, you'll just explode. Don't you have anyone you can talk to about your past?"

"Whether or not it's healthy, I'm perfectly fine with things the way they are." She didn't wait for him to respond before she turned on her heel and left the area. Where did he get the right to such things to her? He didn't know anything about her. And whether he knew it or not, she did have Van to talk to when things got to be too much for her. That was good enough in Isabell's mind.

She barely registered Morgan shouting after her as she left the room.

"Mark my words, Isabell! One of these days I will get you to smile!"

She doubted it.


Isabell woke up with a sigh, and slowly sat up in her bed. Looking out the window through half-lidded eyes she noticed with relief that the sun had begun to rise. She was still tired, but she didn't care. She knew from experience that once she got out of bed and had a shower she would be fully awake for the day.

She sighed once more and took the ring hanging from a long, silver chain around her neck into her fingers. Morgan's ring; it was the only thing she had to remind her of him.

Even though he was no longer with her, she was seriously grateful for what he did for her. He had made her realize that life wasn't exactly worth living as Cantabile's puppet, and how much better off she was as her own person.

She began playing with the ring in her fingers as she thought.

Cantabile had been very disappointed when Morgan slowly managed to break into Isabell's shell. She attempted to talk her into her old mindset, but by then she had grown to enjoy Morgan's company too much to be swayed back into her old ways. Isabell didn't want to go back to being a puppet.

She began to spend less time around Cantabile after that, and barely spoke to her anymore outside of training. Cantabile caught onto her trying to avoid the older woman and began to attempt talking sense into her while they trained, telling her over and over again that it would be best to cut off all ties with Morgan as Isabell would be joining Cantabile's division in the Oracle Knights within weeks.

When Isabell continued to show that she had no intentions of becoming the shell of a girl once again, Cantabile shook her head at her.

"I thought you had the potential to be better than the rest of those maggots, Isabell. Everyone should have one person they can trust. For you, that person should remain myself."

Isabell happened to disagree with that now, and Cantabile told her that she was growing soft and despaired over the fact that Isabell had become such a strong and independent person like herself, only to lose it all because of one boy.

That was the closest Isabell had ever gotten to being praised by Cantabile, and it wasn't at all what she thought it would be. Strangely the part where Cantabile said she had failed in preventing Isabell from becoming a maggot like the rest had sounded more like a compliment than her saying she had become a strong and independent woman.

Despite all the pain she went through after going against Cantabile's wishes and getting to know Morgan better, Isabell found she much preferred being a maggot to a mindless puppet.


"Too slow!"

Isabell easily dodged Alex's attack, side-stepping until she was behind the brunette. Alex turned and used both her new blades to guard as Isabell dealt her own blow, with just enough force to knock Alex on her back for the third time since their training session started.

"Ow!" Alex groaned as she sat up, rubbing her back, "Could you at least go easy? This isn't a contest, you know!"

Isabell smirked at her as Alex stood up and got into stance once again, "Would an enemy go easy on you? Besides, I have brought it down a notch."

"Wha- At least bring down to a normal person's standard! Clearly one notch isn't enough!"

Isabell laughed, "Alright, fine, how about I just block for now while you get used to the new weapon?"

"Thank you."

As their training continued, Alex slowly started to get the hang of her new weapon. She managed to make a transition with enough of her old fighting style with her sword to the new dual blades that it wasn't too hard for her to figure a new style out after Isabell started going a lot easier on her.

After a few more moments of effortless blocking on Isabell's part, she decided to test Alex, lunging out at her with no warning. Alex's eyes widened in shock as she quickly dodged the attack and jumped back a few feet.

"I thought you said you were just going to block!"

"Always expect the unexpected in battle, my dear sister," Isabell smiled, "Besides, you were already doing a lot better."

Isabell had no doubts Alex would do well against other opponents, Isabell was just too experienced for her at the moment. Despite that, she had no doubts her younger sister would make a fine swordswoman one day.

Deciding she'd had enough of sparring for the day, Isabell sheathed her sword and started digging through her bag for the canteens of water she'd brought with her. Once she found them, she handed one to Alex, who took it gratefully, before grabbing one for herself.

After a short break, Isabell had Alex try to bring in Third Fonons into her new dual blades. Isabell had the blacksmith make them with a material specifically made to utilize the Fonon, so she wasn't surprised at all to see Alex have such an easy time holding the bright green fonons around her blades for a long amount of time with little effort. It also helped that she had been practicing for so long.

Before long, the sun was beginning to set, and they were forced to start heading back to the city. They were both getting hungry anyway, so they would have left whether it was starting to get dark or not.

"Good luck in St. Binah," Isabell told Alex as they made their way back into town, "I might get a job or two in the area when you're there, so it probably won't be too long before we see each other again."

"Great," Alex smiled, "I'd probably go insane with only Jade to talk to for a couple weeks."

...

"I never would have imagined myself wearing one of these," Alex said, taking one last look at herself in the mirror after putting her hair up in a bun, and then turning to face Guy, who sat at the end of her bed. Never in a million years would she have thought she would be wearing a Malkuth military uniform. One similar to the one Jade wore, with no helmet, making it clear she wasn't actually a soldier. So much had changed since she first left Baticul.

Guy nodded his agreement at the statement while he stood up, "I never imagined I would ever see you in one...or any military uniform, really."

Alex sighed, "I can't believe I have to leave. The timing couldn't have been worse."

Guy gave her a small smile, "Not necessarily. It'll only be for a couple weeks, right? And while you're there you won't have to worry about Cameron, either."

"Right. I guess I can at least be thankful I won't be around for that hearing. I can't stand those sorts of things, they're so boring."

Guy laughed, "Yeah, well, I don't think this one would be so boring with you directly involved. I'll send you a letter after it's over, telling you the outcome."

"Thanks. You can feel free to send me letters any other time though," she told him with a small blush, looking away from him, "It'll probably be weird, not seeing you every day."

Guy chuckled and pulled her into a short hug, "I'll miss you too. Try and at least have a bit of fun. Maybe make a friend or something...just, you know, try and pick a better one this time?"

"Shut up," she laughed, "Maybe I should just try and stay away from the guys that'll be there."

"I wasn't going to suggest that, but if you want to, that's fine by me."

Alex smiled up at him for a moment, "I should probably get going. Jade and the others are probably waiting for me by now."

"Right," Guy nodded, before giving her a quick kiss, "I'll see you in a couple weeks."


When the group had all met up at the entrance to the city and began in their trek towards St. Binah, things were a bit awkward. No one spoke at first, and Alex could feel most of the soldiers' eyes on her as she walked next to Jade. She'd attempted to be friendly with them when they first met up, but none of them seemed particularly happy to have her around, in fact, most of them seemed bitter.

Alex eventually got sick of all the stares she could feel, and began to trail behind a bit in hopes she would eventually end up at the back of the group where they wouldn't really be able to stare at her. She didn't get very far before one of them stuck out their arms and wrapped it around her shoulder, making her jump a bit out of shock.

"Don' worry about them," the soldier told her, and Alex instantly recognized her as the woman she met right after her run-in with Cameron the other day. Jade had said her name was Lyneya.

Lyneya removed her arm from Alex and took off her helmet before winking at her, "They're all just upset that you got a job workin' with the Colonel with no military experience."

"Is that all?" Alex asked, "Why does everyone get upset about that? If they really knew him, they'd be thanking me for being the one to spend all day with him instead of any of them."

"I heard that," Jade said from in front of them, without turning back, "Your words have hurt my fragile heart, Alex."

"Yeah, whatever," Alex rolled her eyes.

"I wouldn' be too worried about the others not talkin' to ya," Lyneya said, "In fact, I'm kinda jealous. They're all idiots, so ya might be better off not talking to any of 'em anyway. Especially that guy," she jabbed her thumb in the direction of the soldier directly behind her, "He's the biggest dumb-ass of 'em all. He's probably contagious, too, which explains how the others got to be such idiots."

"Lyneya, is it even in your system to be nice?" the soldier asked. Alex recognized his voice to be the one who was with Lyneya after the incident with Cameron, too.

"Nicer than any of the rest of ya," Lyneya told him, "At least I'm tryin'a be nice to the girl."

"Yes, and I'm sure the girl has a name," the man removed his helmet as well and shook out his short, black hair before he and held out his hand for Alex to shake. "My name's Carolus."

"Alex," she replied as she took his hand.

"I know, you're pretty famous around the Malkuth Headquarters already. Let me introduce you to everyone," he put his arm around Alex's shoulder, and she had to wonder if anyone Jade chose to accompany them knew what personal space was, and began to point out a couple of the other soldiers behind them. She simply nodded along and let him speak about them, though she couldn't help but think she would be better off learning from experience. She wouldn't be able to retain any of the information, as she was so bad at putting names to faces, especially when she couldn't even see their faces.

"...And the big guy in the back, his name's Oren," Carolus continued as he pointed out a soldier with a very large stature. The only person Alex had ever seen larger than Oren was Largo. "He doesn't really talk much. Actually, in the three years I've known the guy, I've never really heard him speak. I've been wondering lately if he can."

"...I can," Oren deadpanned from the back of the group, and Alex had to laugh at how red Carolus turned.

Lyneya shoved him hard in the back, "Now you've gone an' insulted 'im! Apologize, ya moron!"

"S-sorry, Oren," Carolus laughed nervously, looking a little confused about who to be more scared of: the dark-skinned woman yelling at him, or Oren, who didn't really show any signs of caring that much.

"Is there something going on between you two?" Alex asked, though she felt like she was prying too much after the words were out of her mouth. She had just met them, and that was a bit personal.

Both of them looked insulted that she would even say such a thing, and quickly protested.

"The idea of me bein' with him is idiotic in itself!"

Carolus looked a little hurt at Lyneya's words for a moment before turning to Alex, "Why would you care so much?" he asked, sidling up to her in a failed and awkward attempt at flirting. Alex only laughed at him again.

"Ya need to work on it," Lyneya said bluntly.

Carolus blushed, "I wasn't being serious anyway. I thought she was with that other guy who helped lower the lands, isn't he some kind of Malkuth noble now, too?"

"You mean Guy?"

"Yeah, him."

"Even if she wasn', a girl like her could do a helluva lot better than you," Lyneya smirked, and Carolus pouted in response.

"Come on, Lyn, that hurt. At least try to be nice to me for once? What've I ever done to you?"

"Don' call me Lyn!" Lyneya glared at him, "You know I hate it when you call me that!"

As Carolus and Lyneya continued their arguing, Alex heard Jade say something about a better choice in the soldier accompanying them as he continued to walk in front of them.

Alex wasn't sure what to expect when she was told she was going to St. Binah, but it definitely wasn't this. She was almost certain she would have to spend the next few weeks being completely serious most of the time, but so far that didn't appear to be the case.

Somehow, it felt almost normal, and she really began to miss her friends and the time they spent traveling around Auldrant. She felt almost as if she was replacing everyone except for Jade as they made their way to St. Binah, and she found herself wanting to see everyone all together again. And she certainly didn't expect to start missing Guy so soon.

Alex sighed and tried to break out of her thoughts, watching as Lyneya and Carolus continued to argue. How was it that watching them did nothing but remind her of Tear and Luke? Lyneya was nothing like Tear, she was maybe more similar to Anise, only a lot older...

Okay, apparently comparing her new group members to her friends wasn't helping, so she tried to think of different things. She tried to think of what they were going to be doing in the time spent in St. Binah. Maybe she would get to know her new group better over the next few weeks, and they would remain friends in Grand Chokmah when they returned?

She wasn't sure about the others yet, but she was looking forward to getting to know Lyneya and Carolus, anyway, considering they were so far the only ones to talk to her.

"Alex," Jade suddenly spoke up from the front of the group, "Could you come here for a moment?"

"What is it, Colonel?" Alex asked as she caught up to him.

"There's something I need you to do for me once we reach St. Binah."

"Alright..."

"Before we left, I got a letter from the Field Marshal. Apparently, his son has been having some difficulties with a few of the newer recruits. They have complaints about people who had no intentions of becoming soldiers, but had no choice but to be enlisted due to the city's need for soldiers. In their words, they feel as if their recruitment is going against what the Score would have said, had Ion not ordered it to no longer be read."

"So those recruits have been causing trouble?"

"Yes. They've been interfering with military operations, and have been causing problems elsewhere. Their actions have also proven to cause doubt for the other new recruits who didn't at first have problems with being recruited."

"Is this why you were called to St. Binah in the first place?" Alex asked, "So you could scare them into cooperating?"

"I believe that may have been their intention, yes. But I won't have enough time on my hands to watch them all the time. On top of that, I fear that these troublemakers will be unlikely to listen to even me," Jade continued, "While some of them may listen to the people who defeated Van and saved the Outer Lands from destruction..."

"Others may not want to listen to people they could easily blame for abolishing the Score," Alex finished with a sigh. It already appeared that their task would be much harder than she first thought.

"Precisely," Jade nodded, "I thought you should be warned. I'm almost certain we'll be having problems with these recruits. I've received their names from General McGovern so we would know who they are right away. Once we've been introduced, keep your eye on Ryan Terzi, and Garrot Mcmahon. If you see them up to anything that could cause problems, tell me or someone else with authority immediately."

"So you want me to spy on them?"

"In a manner of speaking. You will have other duties assigned to you, I do believe you could be useful in training the recruits as well. However, I will ask that you do watch those two closely whenever we're not all together in one group. I'm afraid I really don't have time for pointless shenanigans."

"Will do," Alex nodded before looking back at the group behind her, "Will the others be told about this beforehand too?"

"I will inform them shortly before we arrive in St. Binah."


Training began the morning after they arrived in St. Binah, and it didn't take long at all for Alex to figure out who the troublemakers were.

Over the first few days of training, they did nothing but complain about how they shouldn't be there, and they purposely went against Jade' orders just for the hell of it. It was clear Jade, as well as all of the others, were getting tired of them. Lyneya had actually taken to threatening them to get them to do a job. It may not have been going along with the rules, but nobody seemed to care about how she managed to get them to do something, as long as she was capable of it.

After training, Alex spent a lot of her time keeping an eye on the two of them. She'd caught them trying to sabotage other training sessions in various ways, and somehow managed to put a stop to a lot of the disastrous fon machines they created, and with every time she had to figure out how to stop something from going off, or just straight-up destroying it herself if it was small enough, she wished Guy were there to help her with these two. He would have had an easier time figuring these machines out, and it might have actually been considered fun for him, while it was just a huge pain in the ass for her.

Ryan and Garrot quickly caught onto her tailing them and interfering with their 'works of genius' as they called them, and began setting more traps and distractions for her as they worked on their bigger projects. Shorty after this, Alex spoke to Jade, and he enlisted Lyneya and Carolus' help to make things easier for her. He was having a much easier time when they weren't causing trouble, and he preferred to keep it that way as soon as possible.

Once the boys realized Lyneya was now with Alex, they started to tone it down, but didn't stop altogether. As the days continued to go by, Alex thanked Yulia she now had Lyneya's help, as her job was a lot simpler. She still couldn't sleep at night for worry that Ryan and Garrot would be waiting until nighttime to strike, but it was a start.

After a couple more days, Lyneya got the idea of taking the two of them for some private training. Alex thought she was probably hoping to literally beat some sense into them. Normally, she would have been against it, but the two of them had irritated her so much that she didn't even think before agreeing to the idea.

Alex, Lyneya, and Carolus brought them a little ways outside the fallen city before challenging them to a spar. It didn't take very long at all for the three to beat them, even while going easy on them, and Alex had to admit that it did help a bit with her stress.

"You guys have really got to take your training more seriously," Carolus told them, "It seemed like you weren't even trying. You won't make very good soldiers at this rate.

"We keep telling you we don't want to be soldiers!" Garrot shouted from the ground.

"How do you think it would feel to not be given a choice in your own life?" Ryan demanded, and at that Alex finally snapped.

"Really? Do you think I asked to lose my parents in the Hod war?" she asked nonchalantly, and Ryan widened his eyes, probably aware that what she was about to say would make any argument he had to throw at them invalid.

"N-no-"

"Do you think, that after that war was over and my parents were dead, that I chose to be adopted by the very man who led the attack on Hod? Do you think that I can't go a single day now without feeling horrible about ever forgetting the face of the people who easily gave up their lives for the small chance of saving mine? Do you think I don't regret not being able to spend the past sixteen years with my sister, instead of living a life that never should have been mine?"

"Um, Alex..."

"Not now, Carolus!" she snapped, continuing to yell at the two boys who now looked as if they were afraid she would literally bite their heads off. They had pissed her off, deprived her of sleep, and stressed her out long enough that she didn't even care as she yelled, "Let me tell you boys something. You may not have been given the choice to become soldiers, but you are being given the choice to learn how to survive a battle. Do you think everyone's out there training their asses off because it's fun? No, they're doing it because they want to be able to come home at the end of the night to their families-"

"Alex!"

Alex groaned before turning to demand what Lyneya wanted, but stopped short when she saw why she was being interrupted. Her eyes widened at what she was seeing, and any thoughts of shouting at the boys who had made her life hell over the past few days vanished from her mind.

A platoon of Kimlascan soldiers were marching in their direction, and they didn't look like they were there on friendly terms.

Alex quickly turned to Garrot, "Go get reinforcements."

"But-"

"Now."

Garrot wasted no time in running in the direction of the city, but Ryan stayed behind, pulling out his sword and shaking like a leaf. He obviously wasn't going to be any help in a battle.

"You go with him," Alex told him as she, Lyneya, and Carolus drew their weapons.

Ryan looked at her before shaking his head, "You guys can't fight alone."

"An' it doesn' look like you can fight at all," Lyneya bit back, "Go get help."

Ryan hesitated before nodding and running after Garrot. Alex knew General Frings was helping in the city. The three of them wouldn't be able to hold the Kimlasca soldiers off for long, but they could at least hold them back until others arrived.

What was going on? What about the peace treaty? Alex knew Natalia definitely wouldn't allow for any violations of that, and she doubted Ingobert would either. This wasn't right.

As the soldiers drew closer, Alex noticed that very few of them actually wore equipment, and they all looked so...lifeless. Like puppets.

What the hell was going on?


A/N: Alex overreacted a little to Ryan's comment near the end, but they had been testing her limits for so long that she just had to snap. I would have showed a bit more of the transgression into her snapping like that, but if I had added any more scenes this chapter would be way too long. It's almost 8000 words as it is. On top of that, she hadn't really snapped that much since finding out about her past, so I figured this would be a good time for her to snap at them as well as change their perspectives on things.